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QR Codes: From Passé to Practical

Nearing the end of 2011, QR Codes (short for Quick Response Codes) were the red-hot new word in the marketer’s vocabulary. The 2D matrix-type barcodes were beginning to appear everywhere, from traditional places for print marketing such as corkboards and city busses, to newer locations like storefront windows television screens. Armed with smartphones that have put barcode scanning technology in the hands of the masses, audiences engage with the codes in impressive numbers; more than 14 million codes were scanned in July 2011, and the number is growing.

Plugged-in advertisers everywhere have jumped on board with QR codes, and the popularity of the useful tool has hit a fever pitch. As these little black and white boxes continue to make their way into prominence, it will become increasingly important to design a strategy that takes advantage of their strengths while avoiding their potential pitfalls. Here are a few general rules to keep QR code marketing effective:

–  QR Codes require context. An advertiser cannot simply place a code somewhere and expect the average smartphone user to pull out their device and scan it. Even if the code is placed somewhere relevant to the audience’s interests, QR codes require context. Placing the code within visual media with a focused message and smart design will motivate audiences to scan.

– All links directed through QR codes must be optimized for mobile platforms. The overwhelming majority of devices used to scan codes are smartphones, tablets, and other “unplugged” technologies. A destination that has poor usability or compatibility is an instant turn-off.

– QR code marketing must be directed towards a specific user base. Not all demographics are keen on QR codes; the younger and more tech savvy set are the early adopters and the obvious target, but for Baby Boomers and other more set-in-their-ways groups, ad dollars may be better spent in more traditional arenas.

– Good QR code marketing is closely tied to social media marketing. Codes are a fantastic way to create an impactful relationship with an individual who scans by immediately directing them to interact with your brand on a social network.

– Be creative! QR codes can be expressive, interactive, and clever. Most scanning applications have excellent error tolerance, meaning greater functionality while allowing for plenty of customization. Colors, shapes, and sizes can all be modified to create a code in line with branding, leading to a more attractive incentive for users.

    QR codes will continue to grow in prominence as they are integrated into marketing and advertising strategies. Following these tips, a brand can stand out from the crowd and capture their desired audience.

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